Teaching a Puppy to Sit – Praise Only Method
Dogs, like children, are not born knowing how to behave appropriately. The good news is that whether you have a new puppy, a new-to-you adult dog, or the same old dog you’ve had for years that desperately needs to be taught new tricks, almost any dog can learn good manners and leave bad manners behind; however, it is up to you to put in the time and effort it takes to civilize your dog.
In this and the next few posts, we will be looking at the basic good manners every dog should learn, beginning with sit. The sit command is a great place to start because it is so versatile; it can be used in many situations and it is the foundation for more complicated commands. It is probably the command you will use most often with your dog.
This post focuses on training a puppy to sit using only praise as the reward. Try this method first with your puppy. If it works, you will not need to wean your puppy off treat rewards. However, some puppies are too hyperactive to focus without the incentive of a food reward. The next post will cover that method, and later posts will look at training or retraining the older dog to sit.
Squat or kneel down beside your pup and place one hand on his chest and one behind his back legs.
Hold the pup steady with the hand on the chest while pushing gently behind his knees with the other hand to get him into a sitting position. At the same time, use a commanding tone and say “Sit.”
Once in the sitting position, praise him with scratches and rubs and tell him how good he is. Be enthusiastic, as this will make an impression upon him. Keep the praise session very short at first, because the pup is likely to leap back up out of the sit position when being praised and you want to reserve the praise only for the sitting part so he connects the action with the reward. You may need to make several attempts before you get the pup into the sitting position long enough to praise him for it.
Note: Be careful not to reward your pup for jumping up on you while you are in the squatting position. If he does jump up, turn your back to him for a few seconds — no words, no touching, which the pup will interpret as praise – then face him again and try to position him into sit once again.
Work for a few minutes at a time whenever you interact with your pup during the day. Get him to “work” for your praise or any other rewards you give him during the day by having him sit. For example, before you put his dinner bowl down on the floor, practice the sit command. Remember that your puppy learns from you with every interaction you have with him.
Be patient. It may take a few days for him to make the connection between the action and the praise. Be upbeat and enthusiastic whenever training and your pup will enjoy his training sessions.